28 September 2009
Fish oil no red herring for arthritis sufferers
World Arthritis Day – 12 October 2009
Arthritis afflicts hundreds of millions of people worldwide and is also the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs and older cats. Although there is no cure, it is now acknowledged that a diet rich in fish oil can make a difference to quality of life and slow down the disease’s progression.
Both medical and veterinary experts recommend a multi-pronged therapeutic approach to best manage the disease. Maintaining optimum weight is absolutely essential as excess kilos put additional stress on joints. Indeed the high level of obesity in both the human and pet populations is thought to be one reason for the increasingly high incidence of arthritis. Gentle exercise, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy are also recommended interventions. Pain relief with anti-inflammatory medication will always be an important part of arthritis management, but potential side effects should be taken into consideration for long term use. Always consult your vet before using anti-inflammatory pain relief on your pets.
Recently a lot of arthritis research has focussed on diet and nutrigenomics i.e. how nutrients affect gene expression. The benefit of fish oil in the diet has been touted for generations, but now - thanks to the study of nutrigenomics - it is known why. “Our research shows that EPA (an omega 3 fatty acid found in fish oil) turns off the genes responsible for cartilage damage in dogs,” said Professor Bruce Caterson, University of Cardiff.
Because people eat what they like, rather than what they are fed, it seems pets are ahead of the pack when it comes to benefiting from this research in real life. A pet food - Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d (joint diet) - was developed using the nutrigenomic research. Firstly, genomists compared healthy and arthritic dogs, identifying differences in the expression levels of nearly 2,000 genes. Secondly, they assessed the effects of certain nutrients on gene expression. Finally nutritionists formulated the food using nutrients identified as having a positive effect at the optimum levels and proportions required. Randomised, double-blind, controlled studies proved that dogs with naturally occurring osteoarthritis fed Hill’s j/d enjoyed significant long term benefits in mobility and weight-bearing ability in as little as 21 days – results which are repeatedly confirmed locally by anecdotal reports from pet owners and vets.
Dr Anndri van Zyl, a vet from Great Brak in the Western Cape, says that Hill’s j/d has transformed her own Rottweiler’s life. “Cola has one of the worst cases of hip dysplasia I’ve ever seen. But now she is drug and supplement-free and can jump onto the back of the bakkie when the tailgate is closed.”
Cape Town vet Dr David Grant says that he recommends Hill’s j/d to all geriatric felines. “Older cats that eat j/d can ‘drop’ four to five years, becoming more mobile and interacting with their owners again.”
Hill’s offers a trial programme through South African veterinary practices, so owners can see for themselves if the food makes a difference to their pet’s mobility. “If you don’t see an improvement within a month we will refund the purchase price of your first bag,” said Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor for Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “Because Hill’s j/d has been shown to reduce the need for anti-inflammatory medication it is a better long term solution,” he adds.
Arthritis afflicts one in seven South Africans - will the same approach work for people? It may take longer for scientists to make this leap but until they do pets can get the benefit, and you would be wise to remember the old adage – you are what you eat.
For expert advice and information on the Hill’s Mobility Trial Programme speak to your vet, visit www.HillsPet.co.za or call Hill’s toll-free on (0800) 228 783